Dealing with stress and depression during a divorce or separation

6min read

Going through a divorce or separation can be a really harrowing experience. Depression can hit any one of us at any time and is very real. If you feel that you might be experiencing stress or depression and can’t see any good in your life then it is vital that you do seek support sooner rather than later. It is often described as feeling as though “a dark cloud is over my head” coupled with a feeling of hopelessness or not feeling anything at all.

We are only human, and we have all had times in our lives when we struggle to cope with what life throws our way. The end of a relationship is undoubtedly going to be stressful, and it is really important that we recognise our feelings and are able to act on them if we sense that we are struggling to manage our stress levels. You may find it helpful to read our advice on parenting with a mental heatth condition.

Spotting the signs

Divorce can trigger a range of emotional and physical symptoms. While sadness and emptiness are common, you might also experience:

  • A sense of hopelessness and a bleak outlook on the future
  • Increased irritability and finding yourself more tearful
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively
  • Changes in appetite, either eating less or using food for comfort
  • Anxiety and feelings of worthlessness.
  • Difficulty focusing, making decisions, or feeling restless
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • This isn't an exhaustive list, and everyone experiences depression differently

What can help manage the feelings

How can we find ways to help us manage our stress levels?  Have a look at our tips below and see if you can incorporate any of these into your day-to-day life: 

  • Go for a walk on your own, or with your children can be wonderfully therapeutic as getting yourself out in the fresh air can really help
  • Do something with your children such as baking a cake
  • Laughter can be so beneficial in lifting our spirits so catch up with old friends or watch a funny movie
  • Keep a diary as this is a great way of helping you to express your feelings and will avoid you bottling things up
  • Talk things through with someone you don’t know as it is easy to feel as though we are becoming a nuisance when talking with friends and family
  • Be kind to yourself, grab some me time when you can and make sure you are looking after yourself physically

Reaching out

We know that many people find it hard talking about the way they are feeling and think that they should be able to just snap themselves out of it. Depression is an illness and sometimes does require treatment. Although Family Lives is not qualified to give you any medical advice we do recognise that these feelings can be very intense, and it is crucial that you do seek medical advice. Make an appointment with your GP in the first instance to talk about how you are feeling. If you feel unable to face this alone, take a friend or family member with you. You may also find it helpful to speak to MIND as they can offer advice and support on stress and depression.

Reaching out for some help can feel like the hardest step to take. Talking to your friends or family can be really helpful as you are able to share your feelings. You may be worried that you are overloading them, but they are you support network and probably want to be there to support you through these feelings.

You may find it helpful to join an online support group through social media or an online forum where you can meet others who are going through something similar and understand how you are feeling.

You can’t expect to see results overnight and it might be a case of taking baby steps but hopefully you will slowly start to see a light at the end of the tunnel and see a way forward.

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 

School and homework tips


Bullying and school

Choosing, starting and moving school

Understanding special educational needs and disabilities